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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rancid!

I've been posting some recipes recently that require foods that can easily go rancid. Check that... maybe I need to review what the word "recently" means. It doesn't seem like I've really posted anything recently. All I have to say about that is: 22 more wake-ups and I free! I am really ready to get back into the kitchen, let me tell you.

Anyway... what I was trying to say before I so rudely interrupted myself was that there are certain foods that can go rancid on you and if you're not careful, they can sneak up on you and make things that normally taste wonderful taste... weird.

Case in point: I've been eating a fair amount of hummus lately. And up until about a month ago, I couldn't understand why the recipe I've always used and loved kept coming out so darn disappointing. I'm not really sure what prompted the moment of enlightenment, but all of a sudden one night it dawned on me that I was working from a jar of tahini (sesame seed paste, similar in consistency to peanut butter) that had been in my cupboard for something like three years.

I stuck my nose in the jar. It didn't really smell bad, but there was something different going on. You've got to watch those high fat products. I've had this problem before; because they're shelf stable, we (or maybe just I) tend to forget how long they've been in there. Unfortunately, those items high in fat can go rancid pretty easily.

The good news, I guess, is that using rancid ingredients doesn't hurt you, it just can lend an odd taste to whatever you are making. In the tahini case, my hummus just tasted slightly off. I went to the store and got a new jar, and all my troubles were solved.

But here's the thing. How do you know when something is rancid? Sometimes it's just darn obvious. When something is really rancid it has a sharp odor that you can instantly recognize even if you have no idea what is wrong. That's easy. The problem is when it's so subtle that you don't really recognize it.

Here are a couple of recommendations:
  1. When you first purchase items that are prone to going rancid (whole wheat flour, bran, whole grains, shortening, nuts, and nut butters), take a really good long sniff of them to create a memory of what they should smell like. I always have this problem with whole wheat flour in particular. I can't tell you how many times I've stuck my nose into a batch of flour and couldn't decide if it was rancid or not. When I am in doubt, I open a new package and smell it in turn with the rancid batch and then it is really obvious.
  2. Be sure to store items properly. Foods with a high fat content can go rancid when they become oxidized and/or undergo chemical alteration by microbes. To combat these issues, make sure you store the items in an air tight container and then store them in a cool, dark place. I always store my nuts in the freezer. My whole wheat flour lives in my fridge.

Well, I guess that's all I've got time for today. I've got tests to correct and lessons to plan still, but I wanted to let you know I am still kicking. I hope everyone is having a wonderful week!

2 comments:

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  2. I have found that ever since moving to Florida, my wheat flour turns a lot faster. I don't have room in my fridge for it, unfortunately. I do keep it in an airtight container in a dark place, but I still have to watch it like a hawk and make sure it hasn't gone bad on me.

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